Leadership and a “grace culture.”

One of the things I am naturally drawn to is to observe human behavior and particularly leadership and organizational behavior.  Over the last many years we have been transformed by the Holy Spirit in this present of move God.  I personally was touched in 1993 as a student at Oral Roberts University by the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne around the same time when the Toronto blessing outpouring began.  We as a church have been in this move of God since August of 1999.  This outpouring as been transforming and has “ruined” me for sure!  As a student of church history and revival I am not shocked or surprised by the overemphasis of certain truth or teachings, it happens in every revival and it almost seems like the overemphasis is needed in order to bring a balance.

One of the truths that I have seen overemphasized in recent years is the “grace culture” teaching.  In a nut shell it states that in order to bring people into their God given potential and purpose there must be a culture that is grace filled and has a revelation of the Father’s unconditional love and acceptance.  Let me stop here and say that I wholeheartedly believe this and teach it.  I don’t want to get into all of the areas of overemphasis here in this blog but I want to limit it to the area of leaders and leadership.

The misapplication of the grace truth that I am seeing more and more is that of not  recognizing that “grace” and Leadership trust or appointment are not the same thing.  The New Testament holds those in leadership to a higher standard and conduct.  Here is a partial list from Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus: blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous,  one who rules his own house well with his children in submission, not a novice, has a good testimony among those who are outside, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, lover of what is good, responsible steward, just, holy, self-controlled, and hold fast to the Word.  Now of course how each one is measured and applied changes from leadership culture to leadership culture, but the point is that there are standards that are set for those who are in leadership that are not set necessarily for those who are not yet in leadership.  What that means is Grace is applied the same for all since we are all believers first but the consequences of and or application is different for those in church leadership or aspiring to be in leadership versus everyone else.

For example one of the requirements of those in church leadership is to “have a good testimony among those who are outside.” This means your reputation, business dealings, your interactions and reputation with those outside the church including your personal conduct with the opposite sex etc.  If the leader does not have a good reputation with those outside the church they cannot simply say, “I now repent of that” and continue in leadership or be promoted to it.  Repentance in this realm has to do with restitution, longevity and proving out their lifestyle and conduct.  This is not a “legalistic” approach or burden, it is simply the requirement of Scripture in order for those who lead in the body of Christ to lead with integrity, character and effectiveness.  Grace and forgiveness is never the issue because God is always forgiving and restoring.  In my observation churches that have an extreme “grace culture” never are truly thriving or fruitful and multiplying in any significant way. I believe the reason for this is simple,  fruitful leadership must be biblical leadership.  To truly lead in the fruitful manner that God intended for us to function and in Apostolic authority we must follow God’s pattern for leadership.  Most importantly leadership is not about methods but about the person that God is forming and using.

My attempt is not to put a heavier burden on those who are already carrying the burden of leadership but to simply give us some things to think about and remember no matter how great that message sounded at the conference, we always need to come back and line it up with biblical truth.  Peace.

The Power of Vision -Part 2

Dreams vs. Vision

Most people dream but a dream without faith is simply a fantasy.  There is nothing wrong with dreaming, in fact all vision is drawn from the well of dreams.  We are to regularly dream with God, this is the hope factor (Heb. 11:1), in the process of dreaming with God through prayer and giving God access to the dream that the leader holds in his heart, the Lord “speaks” and begins to impart faith to the parts of the dream that reflect God’s plan for the leader and the local church, this now becomes the faith factor (Heb. 11:1).   This faith makes the vision seem real and attainable, faith gives substance to things that were at one time just a hope or a dream.  Without the element of faith dreams remain the creation of the human mind – a fantasy.  The senior leader is not the creator of vision but rather it’s caretaker, true vision comes from God.  Fantasies never materialize because they inherently lack the faith necessary to bring it to pass.

The most important job of the senior leader is to find God’s vision.

Proverbs 25:2 (NKJV)

2     It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,

But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

It concealing, the Lord forces us to seek Him, and in seeking Him we find more than a simple plan.  We are infused with the faith, the substance of heaven to bring the vision to pass.  Also, it is faith that will attract others to the vision.  We can’t “act” a faith that will draw people, but the faith that God imparts to us will not only draw people but will also impart into their heart the vision and faith to work, give, and pray as a force for the fulfillment of the vision.

The Threefold Law of Vision

Nehemiah 2:13–18 (NKJV)

13 And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. 15 So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.

17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.

So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.

Step One:  The Law of Articulation

Nehemiah cast the vision to the people, he pointed to the need and suggested a bold solution.  The senior leader has to articulate the vision in a manner that the “many” may see it.  Leaders must take time to make sure people “get it” or they won’t follow.  Give the process time, don’t just assume everyone got it because you shared the vision or wrote about the vision.  Where visionaries are often weak is that we assume everyone sees the vision with the same clarity that we see it.  Write the vision in a short and clear manner.  Use as many forms of communication as possible and repeat it as often as possible.

Step Two:  The Law of Unification

The timing is determined by the pace at which the people rally around the vision.  Most senior leaders jump from step one to attempting to bring about the vision virtually by themselves.  This is where the nature of vision works against itself.  Because the leader has embedded in the vision the faith to bring it to pass, we often do not have the patience and alienate the very ones God is calling to come along side of us to bring to pass the vision, any vision that is worthwhile will require others.

Many factors come to play when seeking unification; the leader’s skill in articulating the vision in terms of doable goals or steps; the health of the body to whom the vision is proposed.  The goal at this stage is to rally the people.  If this doesn’t happen, the leader doesn’t need to entertain critical thoughts and feelings towards the people but rather needs to go back to “the mountain” for some more sessions with God.

Step Three:  The Law of Mobilization

Once the people have bought into a vision and make it their own, it is now time to put them into action and go for the BIG ASK (what is needed from the people to bring the vision to pass).

There is no hard and fast rule on how long the three-fold law of vision will take.  The church is an organism and therefore the process is organic and the leader cannot rush the process.

The Power of Vision – Part 1

In order to have church health (and growth) present, effective leadership must be present.  It isn’t really leadership itself or the personality of the leader that moves the church forward, but the natural outworking or the application of the leadership gift within the person/leader.  It is what good leaders natural do that produces and sustains momentum.

Effective leadership always expresses itself in two ways:  vision and faith.

Vision Formation

The formation of vision is a solo project.  Vision is not formed in a committee or team nor is it formed in collaboration.  Multiple forces of vision input creates di-vision, and this will lead to lack of clarity, momentum and division.

Vision formation begins with dreaming.  Dreaming is easy for most, but turning dreams into an attainable vision is the work of leadership.  Vision is the ability to see what God wants to do in and through a group of people.  The leader sees the future.

Vision has everything to do with spiritual sight, Dr. Yonggi Cho states, “Dreams and visions are the language of the Holy Spirit.”  In other words the Holy Spirit speaks to you regarding your realms of authority through dreams and visions as we fellowship with Him.

It is important for the pastor/leader to understand realms of authority.  When we understand biblical ecclesiology, we understand that we are under shepherds (under the authority of Jesus) shepherding His people.  Shepherds have a vision and direction for the flock (from the Chief Shepherd) and therefore lead.  Shepherds do not receive their vision from a committee of sheep.  I understand many pastors find themselves in established churches with faulty and disempowering leadership structures, that is why it is imperative for pastors to have biblical leadership paradigms and disciple, educate, and lead their congregations in what is biblical rather than in, “what has always been done.”  Bottom line:  LEADERS LEAD.

A leader filled with vision can look beyond small numbers, financial difficulty and the impossibilities of the present and see, with clarity and passion, the future as it has already come to pass.

Leaders Create Culture

Every organization/church has a culture that is unique.  The question is never whether your church has a culture but rather what is the culture?  As the leader if I cannot answer that question that means the culture of my church has been created by default rather than intentionally.  When culture is created by default the most dysfunctional parts of the organization create it.  This is true in every organization and in particularly the church.

The dictionary defines Culture as shared beliefs and values of a group, people with shared beliefs and practices shared attitudes, a particular set of attitudes that characterizes a group of people.  This is not to be confused with people simply agreeing on the same doctrine etc. but rather unity around purpose and the things that we hold dear and a unity on the main purpose of the church and how you are called to fulfill that.

Culture creating is probably one of the most important tasks of the leader.  Leaders often try to cast vision within a culture that cannot sustain that vision.  The health of the church/organization is determined by the culture.

Culture has to be developed intentionally through establishing truths and core values.  Culture establishes boundaries for people; culture determines whom you draw and who stays with you.  As leaders what we tolerate will dominate, what we tolerate creates the culture and therefore I will get more of what I allowed.

If you as the leader do not like the culture of your church then begin to change it.  Pastor, ask yourself the question, “If I was not the pastor would I still attend this church?”  Unfortunately for many the answer is no.  If that’s the case ask yourself the question why?  This begins to give you the things that often point to things in the culture of your church that need to be changed.  At this point I can hear the argument from well meaning pastors who say, “but it’s not about what I like but the people I am shepherding.”  Wrong!  You cannot effectively lead something you don’t like and connect with.  God always works though leaders that He calls to lead HIS church.  If God has called you to lead your church then He has called you because of YOUR unique mix of gifts, anointing, personality, and experiences.

It may seem overwhelming but start with simple steps.  Start with the easiest things to change first and let that create the moment for further change.  Your present culture wasn’t created overnight neither will it change overnight….but start now and the momentum to create a culture that will advance the kingdom will be established in your church.